Best Funeral Etiquette Tips For the
Family of the Deceased, Friends, and Relatives
By Christopher P Hill
When to Notify?
The immediate family should receive notification first,
preferably in-person or by telephone, followed by the
closest relatives and friends. Be sure to provide the
name and address of the funeral home for the delivery of
funeral flowers. The service details can be relayed
later when available.
Though it is no longer necessary to dress in black, do
show respect when picking out your funeral attire.
Conservative suits or dress-clothes, in dark, respectful
colors are most appropriate. It is advisable to avoid
floral or busy patterns
What are Typical Visitation Rights?
Upon learning of a death, it is customary for intimate
friends of the family to visit the family either at
their residence or funeral home. It would probably be
more comfortable for all concerned to meet at the
funeral home because they are prepared for visitors.
Each family should decide the number of family members
needed during calling hours. It is also not necessary
for family members to engage in long conversations; a
simple "Thank you, it means so much to have friends like
you at this time," is adequate. If the casket is open
during calling hours, some visitors may want to bid
farewell to the deceased. Although sometimes a visitor
will request that a family member accompany them to view
the body, it is not a requirement
Funeral Service Duration?
Modern funeral services are usually brief and last
approximately 30 minutes
Cemetery Service Duration?
The graveside service tends to be brief. Customarily,
once the commitment ritual is complete and the casket
has been lowered to ground level, the family typically
departs. The casket is then placed in a vault, interred,
and funeral flowers placed on the grave
What Typically Happens Immediately After the Memorial
Immediately after the funeral service, the family
sometimes invites the attendees to join them for food or
a reception at their home or designated place. This
gives everyone a chance to talk and provides some time
to relax and refresh. Sometimes friends or church
members will take it upon themselves to prepare food
ahead of time and relieve the family of this task
How Should You Respond After the Funeral?
For several days after the service, the family should be
permitted to rest and have time to handle the myriad
details that accompany such an occasion. While some
families enjoy the diversion of visits and calls from
friends and family, others prefer complete privacy. It
is not inconsiderate to cut short calls at this time
What About Sending Thank You Notes?
Most Funeral Directors can supply you with generalized
thank you cards or the family may choose to send a more
personal thank you note. The note should be a concise,
personal, and specific. Also, yielding to modern
tradition, a simple thank you card with a signature is
accepted, with or without a personal note
Who Should Get a Thank You Note?
1. Anyone who sent a gift or card to the family deserves
a thank you note. This would include anyone who sent
funeral flowers, brought food, sent a memorial
contribution, or in some other substantial way
acknowledged the deceased. The notes should be sent
within two weeks of the death
2. A personal note is suggested for thanking the clergy
person. If an offering or donation is sent, send it in a
separate envelope. Never include it in the thank you
3. Pallbearers should also be sent a personal message of
4. For individuals who sent funeral flowers, you may
wish to send a personal note
5. For groups or organizations that sent flowers, send a
note to the head of the group and remember to include
all the members of the group in your note. If individual
member names appear on the floral card, a separate note
should be sent to each one but a personal message is not
6. Friends who have volunteered their time and effort
helping in any way deserve a separate written thank you.
If the volunteers are close to the family, you may
prefer to thank them in person
Etiquette for Friends and Distant Relatives
Upon Receiving the News? When learning that a relative
or friend has died, you should express your condolences
and offer assistance as soon as possible. Only very
close friends of the deceased and the immediate family
are expected to visit the family before the funeral. Let
the family know if you will be attending the funeral. It
is important to keep the conversation brief taking in
account their emotional state and that they will be
receiving numerous similar calls
Funeral Flowers Etiquette?
Unless the family asks that donations should be made in
lieu of flowers, you should honor their request. Many
people consider it obligatory to send flowers unless
there is a prohibitive note in the newspaper notice
Thoughtful Memorial Gifts:
1. Food for the Family? Food is always a welcome gift as
there are always visitors around that need to be fed.
Make sure to prepare dishes that require little
2. E-mail? E-mail is only appropriate from those who are
not intimate with the family such as a business
3. Phone Calls? All calls should be as brief as possible
4. Mass Cards? If the deceased was a Catholic, some
people will send a mass card instead of or in addition
to flowers. Catholics and non-Catholics can arrange for
a mass to be said for the deceased
5. Donation to Suggested Charity? Usually the family
will designate a specific organization or charity.
Remember to provide the family's name and address to the
charity so they can send proper notification. Often the
funeral home will offer a direct link to the charity
requested by the family
When Paying Respects?
It is traditional for friends to visit the funeral home
prior to the day of the funeral service. The obituary in
the newspaper will have the details as to the day and
time for visitations
Etiquette for Casket Viewing?
Before or after the service, friends will often go up to
the casket for a final farewell. It is not obligatory
and is totally left to your discretion
Attending the Service?
It is suggested that one arrive at the funeral home at
least ten minutes before the service begins. Funeral
services usually start on time and it is considered rude
to be late. Enter quietly and be seated. Do not conduct
an animated discussion in the chapel; the mood should be
somber. Do not try to talk with bereaved family members
if you arrive early. The first few rows are reserved for
family members. At the conclusion of the service, you
will want to leave promptly and wait in your car if you
plan to follow the procession to the cemetery. Remember
to turn your headlights on so you can be identified as
being a part of the procession. The headlights are to be
turned off once you arrive at the cemetery. Attending
the graveside service is optional and is usually
determined by the relationship between the individual
and the bereaved family.
Christopher P. Hill, Founder - FuneralResources.com
Helpful Link: Funeral Etiquette